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Amid Allegations At Juilliard, Classical Music Leaders Demand Change

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Amid Allegations At Juilliard, Classical Music Leaders Demand Change

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Composer Sarah Kirkland Snyder (center), co-author of the open letter. (Birmingham Royal Ballet)
Amid Allegations At Juilliard, Classical Music Leaders Demand Change

An open letter urging the Juilliard School to take disciplinary action against composer Robert Peizer over allegations of "decades of abuse of women and power" has garnered nearly 450 signatures from composers, musicians, teachers and artists.

Pizer, 68, a former head of the composition department at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, resigned as a teacher on Friday night after 120 people signed the letter as the school launched an independent investigation into the allegations .

"Following an investigation and ongoing discussions with Bob this afternoon, we would like to inform you that Bob will be resigning from teaching and his other positions pending investigation," wrote Adam Meyer, Dean of Juilliard University, in a letter to the faculty on Friday. This change will take effect immediately.

Last week, Berlin-based classical music website VAN Magazine published the results of a six-month investigation into allegations of misconduct against several Juilliard faculty members, including Beezer, who said the magazine "has several previously undisclosed allegations of harassment". .” Harassment and illegal behavior in the late 1990s and 2000s.

These include allegations of "repeated sexual harassment in sexual relationships with students", as well as allegations that these relationships directly influenced important decisions Bezer made as department head at Juilliard.

The report cites the account of an unnamed former student who described "an incident in which Bezer offered him a promising job opportunity before attempting to obtain sexual favors in return."

"What are you going to do for me?" Beezer would have asked.

"I am prepared to participate in an outside investigation of Juilliard to protect and defend my reputation," Besser said in a statement to The Washington Post on Sunday. Until the school completes this process, I agree to take a leave of absence from my teaching position.

VAN's story also included other allegations of school abuse, including student allegations of unwanted advances by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Juilliard professor Christopher Rose, who died in 2019, and allegations against Juilliard professor John Corigliano. Eight Juilliard alumni have accused the composer and longtime teacher of an "informal policy" against admitting female students. (Corigliano denied the allegations in an email to VAN.)

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Composer and Juilliard School teacher Robert Beezer (left) and the late composer Christopher Rose at the 2016 Juilliard School Composers Forum. (Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images) © Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images Author and Juilliard School professor Robert Peizer (left) and the late author Christopher Rose at the 2016 Juilliard School Authors' Forum. (Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images)

An open letter posted to the host's account attributed to the "Composers Collection" was addressed to Bizer.

"While we recognize and appreciate the need for due process, the amount of allegations, testimony and evidence supporting Bezer's wrongdoing is certainly troubling," the letter states. Bezer's presence in the Juilliard composition department until the investigation is complete could compromise students' emotional well-being and hinder a safe and healthy learning environment."

"Sexism and sexual harassment have no place in our school community," Rosalie Contreras, vice president of the Juilliard School of Public Affairs, said Saturday. We take all of these accusations very seriously."

While the VAN report was unable to confirm whether two student complaints against Beezer in 2018 led to Title IX investigations by Juilliard officials, Contreras confirmed that internal investigations at the school "were conducted in the late 1990s and also in 2017. provide detailed information on his findings.

“Allegations previously reported to Juilliard have been amended at this time based on the information provided,” the statement read. However, in order to review the new information and better understand these earlier allegations, the current school administration has launched an independent investigation.

Juilliard's Consensual Faculty-Student Relations Policy expressly prohibits and "discourages" faculty-student relationships for graduate students.

"In addition to creating the potential for coercion, such a relationship compromises the integrity of the educational process by creating conflicts of interest and can harm the learning environment for other students."

Students contacted for the VAN report described Beads' behavior as far from an "open secret" and described the overall climate for women at the prestigious music school as extremely toxic.

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snyder (center), co-author of the open letter. (Birmingham Royal Ballet) © DrewTommons / Royal Birmingham Ballet composer Sarah Kirkland Snyder (centre), co-author of the open letter. (Birmingham Royal Ballet)

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snyder, who helped write and publish Friday's open letter, is part of a coalition of anonymous female songwriters ostensibly opposed to "a long history of condoning and covering up sexual harassment and discrimination". Snyder formed the Post #MeToo Coalition to create a forum for female songwriters to discuss their experiences of abuse and harassment in their profession.

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Snyder did not attend the Juilliard School and has no professional affiliation with it (in addition to being a composer, Snyder is also the artistic director of New Amsterdam Records), but believes that distance from the institution, as well as how much it affected his career as a songwriter, allowing him to "speak on behalf of many of my classmates who don't know" is what gives him the freedom.

She also notes that the scourge of sexual harassment in educational programs extends far beyond a single school; He says he is deeply rooted in the culture of classical music education. As a student, Snyder was sexually assaulted by a powerful professor (she declines to be named), which she says continues to be "hurtful and painful."

"That's why I reached out to these women in the first place," she says. "I can really sympathize with what they're going through and how helpless and helpless they feel because it usually has nothing to do with the person who abused you; it has to do with a network of men at the top of our field who are friends and protectors of each other…. If you go ahead and name just one, you are essentially asking for revenge on the successful old men who hold the keys of all opportunities.

After the open letter was published, Snyder received notes from people at Juilliard unable to speak for fear of reprisal.

"They are masters and they are innocent and they can make or break you," the conservatory's composition teacher told the Post in a text message, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of professional retaliation. . "The doorman doesn't even cover it."

Composer Jefferson Friedman, who attended Juilliard from 1998 to 2001 and then taught at the school for several years, commented on one of Snyder's recent Facebook posts, saying he was "really scared of [Beezer]."

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– Did I know what Paizer was doing at the time? Books by Friedman. "Yeah, everyone did. Do I want to have a say? In retrospect, of course, yes. But then Beezer was the main goalkeeper. … His whole job was to create a tribe with as much power imbalance as possible."

The open letter on Sunday was signed by a number of classical and new music luminaries, including Missy Mazzoli, Gabriella Lena Frank, Vijay Iyer, Theonday Braxton, Andrew Norman, Claire Chase and Nico Muhly.

Snyder experienced a particular fear of men in the music community who were reluctant to sign for fear of reprisal. Despite the sympathy, the dissonance has not gone away.

"I kindly tried to tell them that it's the same fear that women have always had," Snyder says. “We are often harassed, abused or humiliated and have no one to talk to about it. We should also try to ensure that these abusers continue to love us enough to write letters of recommendation or recommend us for awards . an impossible situation for a woman to defend herself." .

At 3 p.m. Friday, Snyder said, 90% of the guys on the fence showed up with last-minute autographs.

"I think they're starting to realize there's more safety in numbers."

Snyder and the previously unknown Composers Coalition are planning their first special strategy meeting in January to discuss ways to directly address abuse and harassment "across all sectors" of the composer and classical music community in general. The roots of inequalities and imbalances go back centuries.

“The benefit of all of this,” Snyder says, “is that this is the first time — perhaps the first time in the history of our songwriting community — that men, women, and people of all races come together. And we are It's in our field . It's an important step, and I think it speaks volumes about the opportunities for growth and change.

Live Sunday School Service – February 18, 2018

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